Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Pie

If you happened to have read Moi's post on New Mexico's most famous and lucrative cash crop, and wondered, "That's all very well and good, but what do you all actually do with the stuff?" here's your answer.

You grow up in New Mexico, you can bet your family has in its recipe vaults some version or another of this enchilada casserole. No, we did not invent enchiladas. Just enchilada pie. It's as authentically New Mexican as you can get, comfort food at its finest.

This recipe was bestowed upon my mother by one of my home town's most venerable cooks. My mom passed it on to me. Now I pass it along to you.

2-3 cups authentic New Mexican green chiles, skin and seeds removed (24 to 30 chiles)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 11 ounce cans of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup, uncooked, straight out of can
12 ounces of real, full fat sour cream
1-1/2 pounds cooked chicken breast chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon authentic New Mexican red chile powder
3/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Harvey's Bristol Cream Sherry
18 6" corn tortillas
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese


Chop green chiles into bite-sized pieces. Place in big mixing bowl.

Add the chopped onion and garlic, soup, sour cream, chicken, spices, and sherry. Mix well.

Spray a 9x13 glass pan with non-stick cooking spray and line with six corn tortillas. They come in packages like so, the best being our locally manufactured Bueno Brand.
In fact, these fine folks, who I know well, are your best resource for all things authentically New Mexican, from spices to tortillas to frozen chile and pre-made dinners. Check em out at: http://www.buenofoods.com/

Anyway. This is how your lined pan will look:

Then, place one third of your chile/chicken mixture on top and spread evenly to the sides. Sprinkle with a third of the shredded cheddar cheese. Repeat two more times, for a total of three layers.

At this point, you can cover the casserole with heavy duty aluminum foil and freeze for up to six months, un-thawing overnight in the refrigerator before baking. If ready to bake now, simply pop into a pre-heated 375ยบ F oven for 45-60 minutes, let sit for five minutes before serving, cut, and serve with a side of refried pinto beans, Spanish rice, and a dollop of even more sour cream.

As for liquid accompaniment, I find that the only wine that really pairs well with New Mexican cooking is, well, a New Mexican wine. Before any you oenophiles get all precious on Moi, know this: New Mexico is the oldest wine producing region in all of North America. They make wines here that will knock your socks off, so there. One of them, IMHO, is Santa Fe Vineyards's Tinto del Sol, a medium -bodied Cabernet blend with a rosy nose that brings out the best in either red or green chile. Ponderosa Valley Vineyards also makes a superlative Riesling, whose character is bold but sweet enough not to get overpowered by the chile. Otherwise, just save the strain on your brain and serve the pie with a good Mexican beer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

El Perfecto Chocolate Mousse

It's my contention that more words have been wasted debating the proper texture of chocolate mousse than that of any other dessert in the known universe. (Well, except maybe cobbler.) Which is why I nearly didn't post a chocolate mousse recipe. For some, the only proper mousse is something that bears a striking resemblance to cotton candy - light, airy, and elusive on the tongue. Still others turn their noses up in disgust at anything that doesn't resemble a texture so dense, it's like a fudge gone wrong – you can literally stand your spoon stick straight up in the middle of it, go dancing around the room in your underwear, and then come back to check and, yup, the spoon's still standing at attention where you left it.

I tend to lean towards dense myself. One, because it means you have to cook the egg yolks – an extra step, I know, but what price extra step if it means the immuno-compromised in your bunch won't fall over dead from salmonella poisoning once the dessert course is finished?

And two, dense means I can scoop the mousse out all pretty-like into melon ball sized servings and hence curtail my normal impulse to ingest an entire martini-glass full of the stuff like the little piggy that I am. Although, yeah, from the photo above, it sure does look like I'm about to ingest more than just a melon ball full, that's for sure. But I'm suffering with the hanta virus crud, and it's now three days into my terrible, terrible sickness, and I am therefore finding that there is little left to live for in this world except chocolate mousse. And Canada Dry Ginger Ale.

Now join me, won't you, in my sickness:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (or chips)
1 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
Pinch salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Put the chocolate in a large sized heatproof bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave for about a minute. Stir. Keep melting in minute increments until almost melted. Stir to complete the job.

Whip the cream in a medium bowl until it holds soft peaks. Do not over whip (you'll know you've done so when it begins to look like butter, so stop just at the soft peak stage before complete anarchy ensues). Set aside.

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and set on the stove to boil.

Put the eggs, salt, and sugar into the bowl of an electric stand mixer, grab a big ol' balloon whisk and beat until foamy and light, about 30 seconds. Set the bowl over the boiling water (the water should just touch the bottom of the bowl; if not, add or subtract as necessary), and continue to whip with the whisk until the eggs get very fluffy and hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. I know, it's hard, but you must keep whisking briskly, otherwise you'll get scrambled eggs and cuss a blue streak my way, when really, it will be your own damn fault. At any rate, think of it as a bicep workout and suck it up.

Remove the bowl from the heat, attach to stand mixer, and continue beating on high speed with the balloon whisk attachment until a thick ribbon falls from the whisk when lifted out of the bowl, anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes more. If mixture is still hot, allow to cool to room temperature. Fold in the vanilla.

Fold about a quarter of the eggs into the chocolate to lighten it, then fold in the rest of the egg mixture. Finally, fold the whipped cream into the entire mixture and fold and fold (or, because I know your arm has just about had it by now, go ahead and just stir and stir – it won't really affect the texture) until everything has been uniformly blended into a smooth, light mousse.

Pour the mousse into 4 serving dishes or wine glasses. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Damn the cholesterol and serve with even more whipped cream on top. And chocolate sprinkles. And/or biscotti. Really, the possibilities are endless.

Alternatively, leave the mixture in the bowl, let set another hour longer in the fridge, and then scoop out with one of those cute melon ball scoopers into small bowls or dishes and impress your friends with the preciousness of it all.